Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume I/Confessions/Book IX/Chapter 7
Chapter VII.—Of the Church Hymns Instituted at Milan; Of the Ambrosian Persecution Raised by Justina; And of the Discovery of the Bodies of Two Martyrs.
15. Not long had the Church of Milan begun to employ this kind of consolation and exhortation, the brethren singing together with great earnestness of voice and heart. For it was about a year, or not much more, since Justina, the mother of the boy-Emperor Valentinian, persecuted Thy servant Ambrose in the interest of her heresy, to which she had been seduced by the Arians. The pious people kept guard in the church, prepared to die with their bishop, Thy servant. There my mother, Thy handmaid, bearing a chief part of those cares and watchings, lived in prayer. We, still unmelted by the heat of Thy Spirit, were yet moved by the astonished and disturbed city. At this time it was instituted that, after the manner of the Eastern Church, hymns and psalms should be sung, lest the people should pine away in the tediousness of sorrow; which custom, retained from then till now, is imitated by many, yea, by almost all of Thy congregations throughout the rest of the world.
16. Then didst Thou by a vision make known to Thy renowned bishop the spot where lay the bodies of Gervasius and Protasius, the martyrs (whom Thou hadst in Thy secret storehouse preserved uncorrupted for so many years), whence Thou mightest at the fitting time produce them to repress the feminine but royal fury. For when they were revealed and dug up and with due honour transferred to the Ambrosian Basilica, not only they who were troubled with unclean spirits (the devils confessing themselves) were healed, but a certain man also, who had been blind many years, a well-known citizen of that city, having asked and been told the reason of the people’s tumultuous joy, rushed forth, asking his guide to lead him thither. Arrived there, he begged to be permitted to touch with his handkerchief the bier of Thy saints, whose death is precious in Thy sight. When he had done this, and put it to his eyes, they were forthwith opened. Thence did the fame spread; thence did Thy praises burn,—shine; thence was the mind of that enemy, though not yet enlarged to the wholeness of believing, restrained from the fury of persecuting. Thanks be to Thee, O my God. Whence and whither hast Thou thus led my remembrance, that I should confess these things also unto Thee,—great, though I, forgetful, had passed them over? And yet then, when the “savour” of Thy “ointments” was so fragrant, did we not “run after Thee.” And so I did the more abundantly weep at the singing of Thy hymns, formerly panting for Thee, and at last breathing in Thee, as far as the air can play in this house of grass.
- The Bishop of Milan who preceded Ambrose was an Arian, and though Valentinian the First approved the choice of Ambrose as bishop, Justina, on his death, greatly troubled the Church. Ambrose subsequently had great influence over both Valentinian the Second and his brother Gratian. The persecution referred to above, says Pusey, was “to induce him to give up to the Arians a church,—the Portian Basilica without the walls; afterwards she asked for the new Basilica within the walls, which was larger.” See Ambrose, Epp. 20–22; Serm. c. Auxentium de Basilicis Tradendis, pp. 852–880, ed. Bened.; cf. Tillemont, Hist. Eccl. St. Ambroise, art. 44-48, pp. 76–82. Valentinian was then at Milan. See next sec., the beginning of note.
- Augustin alludes to this, amongst other supposed miracles, in his De Civ. Dei, xxii. 8; and again in Serm. cclxxxvi. sec. 4, where he tells us that the man, after being cured, made a vow that he would for the remainder of his life serve in that Basilica where the bodies of the martyrs lay. St. Ambrose also examines the miracle at great length in one of his sermons. We have already referred in note 5, p. 69 to the origin of these false miracles in the early Church. Lecture vi. series 2, of Blunt’s Lectures on the Right Use of the Early Fathers, is devoted to an examination of the various passages in the Ante-Nicene Fathers where the continuance of miracles in the Church is either expressed or implied. The reader should also refer to the note on p. 485 of vol. ii. of the City of God, in this series.
- Ps. cxvi. 15.
- Cant. i. 3, 4.